How does a church become reduced to a mere club, a place where humans set the rules and follow their own by-laws? What makes this happen, that God and his Word are effectively nullified or rendered a waste of time? W. Robert Godfrey weighs in on this in his insightful March 2010 Tabletalk article, "The Christian Club."
Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry their Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril. Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them.
God's Word Must Be Vital
Indeed, it is "alive and active" (Heb. 4:12), "God-breathed" and "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bereans examined it to ensure they were getting a true sermon (Acts 17:11), and the Thessalonian Christians heard the Bible as if it were really God's Word which works effectually in those who believe (1 Thess. 2:13). The Word of God is absolutely vital to our existence and certainly to the church's progress in faith. Godfrey has it right: "Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril." Let us never lose the eternal value of Scripture, but embrace it's ability to shape our person and shower us with blessing. No other book is like it.